Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Strange Cut

Students of the Hebrew Bible are familiar with the fact that the expression for making a covenant is "to cut a covenant." Presumably this is because there was a sacrifice associated with the covenant and the death of the sacrificial animal was symbolic of the penalty that would be inflicted on a party that broke the covenant.

Targum Onkelos to Genesis 17:4, however, takes the expression "to cut a covenant" a bit farther than usual:
I will circumcise my covenant with you and you will be a father of many nations.
Genesis 17, of course, is the introduction of the covenant of circumcision, but this passage takes the expression a little further than we are used to.